By: J. Lotufo
I was casually visiting the kitchen for a late-night snack when I heard the echoes of people in the midst of heated conversation. “But it’s true! It happened to my mother,” I listened Jandira say. “She arrived at the voting station and they said she had already voted, but she hadn’t! She even asked for proof, and they showed it to her, right there on paper. The things that happen in this country...”
“I heard it from my neighbor, too.” Maria nodded excitedly. “She was saying the same thing happened to her uncle! Can you believe it?”
I, personally, could not. But then again, that wasn’t the first time I’d heard about election controversies in Brazil. We have become accustomed to speaking of such things as if they are exclusive gossip, and I, like Jandira and Maria, am always completely intrigued. So, with the Presidential elections looming over us after some already controversial years, I found it more than appropriate to recount some of these intriguing stories about voting day.
Apparently this is not an extremely rare occurrence. In 2014, voters from Goiás claimed that, in fact, once they arrived at the voting station, they were unable to cast their vote. This was due to the fact that they had “already voted.” When one of the voters asked for the “mesários” to confirm the error, they claimed that such voter’s receipt had already even been produced.
And it happened in other areas in Brazil, too. The error was seen in Anápolis, where students strongly resented their inability to directly participate in politics. “They removed my right of expressing what I wanted for the future of my city, my country,” sighed a frustrated student. Authorities claimed the mistake could be due to human error on the mesários’ behalf. Yet, nothing was done to correct the error, not even when reported once more in the same state, this time having people cast a blank ballot when that was not their intention.
The frustration and bitterness that emerges when these stories are told are completely understandable. In a democracy, where citizens are given the fundamental right to chose their leaders, a flawed voting system can be thoroughly demoralizing. Politics in Brazil has been, well, tough over the last few years. With corruption allegations sparing only a handful of politicians, it is increasingly hard to place hope onto any candidate, and to be certain that, this time, things are bound to change.
But during this election, did they? The short answer is no. Headlines were sprawled left, right and center about more controversies at the polls. Jair Bolsonaro, presidential candidate for the second round of elections, claimed that when “people pressed number one [...] the candidate from the left [Haddad’s] appeared.” Despite the fact that using electronics at the polls is illegal, videos surfaced showing voters pressing the number “1”, only for it to be automatically completed by “3”, again forming Haddad’s number. Whilst the video was deemed false by regional courts, the overarching problem remains: people are losing trust in the very system of voting. And while that is the case, such controversies and conspiracy theories will continue to emerge in our daily political gossips.